In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m an outdoors girl. Being outside is my favourite thing to do. I also love history, which is why I probably enjoy social studies at school. So when an app comes along that combines learning about natural, historical and cultural sites in Canada and encourages users to get outdoors and visit those sites, write about those sites and even win some prizes along the way, I’m all over it!
As a member of the Get To Know youth advisory board I was invited to take part in a related board that partnered with Taking It Global to design and pilot a new app called Explore150. Now I certainly didn’t design the app but I have been involved a little along the way to provide feedback, some content and spread the word of its existence. Last month the app launched and I encourage all of you to take a look at it and spread the word too – afterall, that’s what social media does best. It has great graphics that take you all over Canada where you can learn about important sites that help define who we are as Canadians. The great thing about this app is that it was designed by youth for youth! There’s also a website where you can vote for your favourite sites in Canada.
The app was started because Canada’s 150th birthday is coming up in 2017. It gives kids a chance to learn about Canada and its diversity. Perhaps Abra Rissi, the co-ordinator for Taking It Global says it best.
…locations vary from historic sites and museums to national parks and community markets. When an Explore150 user visits a location on the app, they are encouraged to check-in to access the peer-generated content on that site. Once checked-in, the user can retrieve information on the site left by their peers and contribute photos or written reflection about their experience at the location. Completing these tasks at Explore150 locations lets users earn points and compete for prizes.
Explore150 users are encouraged to discover new parts of Canada by visiting sites in their community, and can access other parts of Canada by participating dynamically from the comfort of their own home.
The app can be downloaded at http://www.explore150.ca
Chris Jordan is a photographer based out of Seattle but you’d never know it because he has spent so much of his time on the tiny island of Midway the last couple of years. In a previous post I mentioned how connections grow and build so much over time as people who care about similar things come across each other and they put you on to other people interested in the same things and so and so on and before you know it you’ve grown this huge community of people who become resources, supporters and inspirations. Chris Jordan is one of my greatest inspirations. I first heard his name from Taino Uitto who was featured in my film Forever Plastic. Chris had all these really powerful images of albatrosses from Midway Island that revealed the plastic contents of their stomaches which mothers feed their babies or adults ingest because they are colourful and look like something to eat. There’s a huge image of one of these photos at Telus World of Science in Vancouver.
Midway was given its name because it’s midway between Asia and North America. It’s also the home to hundreds of thousands of albatrosses and so many different species of marine and bird life. It’s also close to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and all the debris that sits in the ocean gyres in the Pacific Ocean. Chris travelled to Midway a few times each year and documented the troubles of the albatross in the form of thousands of pictures. He would often do really short videos of the birds and post them on his website. To say that these images are breathtaking would be such an understatement. They make the hairs on the back of your neck go up!
When I visited Chris over a year ago he had another visitor in his studio besides me. It was Sabine Emilliani. So maybe you’ve never heard her name before but I’ll bet you’ve heard of the movie March of the Penguins. Well, she was the editor for that film and it won an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 2005! Anyway, her and Chris were considering co-directing a film about the albatrosses of Midway and using the thousands of images and film footage he had gathered to make a film – and that’s exactly what they did. The film premiered at TIFFS (the Toronto International Film Festival) in September – WOW! Just listening to Chris is inspiring – seeing his photos puts inspiration on a completely different planet.
What Chris is really good at, besides taking photos, is telling a story. He uses his images to tell a story. He’s given me advice that has helped me become a better filmmaker and I will always have his suggestions in the back of my mind when I make future films. My dream is to travel to Midway and practice what I’ve learned from him.
Midway the movie has a deeper meaning than the name of an island – and that’s because of Chris. It represents the in between place – between where we are and where we hope to be. Where the environment is concerned, Sabine sums it up well when she says, it’s up to us to have a good ending or not. And that good ending applies not just to the albatross but to the environment and to us.
Watch the trailer for Midway, the movie.
In response to an article about my work in the Vancouver Sun, a woman from the David Suzuki Foundation emailed me about the work of some musicians bringing attention to the plight of our oceans. Their website explains best what they do.
The Jellyfish Project is an educational initiative focused on generating awareness among youth about the declining health of our world’s oceans and our environment at large. Through the power of music and live performance, students are engaged into the environmental conversation and are given information on how to become active participants in the sustainability movement.
These guys are perfect examples of caring about what you know about. They talk about having grown up near the ocean and spending their childhoods in and around the water. It’s because of those experiences that they now want to protect something that gave them so much enjoyment and as a result they now have a huge appreciation for oceans and marine life.
Everyone can find their passion, at any age. Sometimes those passions are obvious, other times, well – not so much. The only requirement is that you have to be willing to look for them. If you haven’t found yours yet, keep looking and remember “if you are passionate about it, pursue it, no matter what anyone else thinks. That’s how dreams are achieved.”
If you want to learn more about the Jellyfish Project click here.
My friend Richard Louv loves to write. At least I think he must love it because he writes – a lot – and for a lot of different organizations and publications. I really admire the fact that he has this amazing ability to tell stories, he is gifted at using words and he can paint a picture of images and ideas he wants to share by using language. In one of his latest articles he talks about how to use technology while in nature – what a great idea! He talks about how children today can develop what he calls ‘hybrid minds’. “That means maximizing the benefits of electronics (at an appropriate age) while nurturing the full use of the senses through frequent experiences in the natural world.” There are ways to use technology to our advantage outdoors. Take a photo of an animal in its habitat then go home and draw it or paint it. Collect data from outside on your favourite birds maybe and then be part of the Great Backyard Bird Count in Canada and enter your findings on-line to help keep track of all the species in your area. Document changes in your local environment with a digital camera to help educate others about important conservation issues. Rich says, it’s all in the way we use technology; it’s about our choices. If you want to read more about what this article is saying, just click here. And here’s another short article that might get you thinking. It’s called Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Progress. He writes about the possibility of this being a especially creative time in history because of the environmental issues we are faced with – what do YOU think?
There are all kind of conservationists. One of my favourite kinds of conservationists are artists. I talked about Robert Bateman in my last post – famous for painting animals and bringing attention to species that might need some help from us. Paul Colangelo is another Canadian artist who I was lucky enough to come into contact with last spring and while he might not be as famous as Mr. Bateman, his work is just as amazing. He is a National Geographic Explorer photographer who specializes in environmental issues and wildlife. He recently visited Spain to showcase his portfolio on Stone’s sheep because they are endangered by loss of habitat. He has travelled all over the world. Check out the Wildspeak conference that took place in Salamanca, Spain this month. And if you want to see more of Paul’s work just visit his website.
The photo below was taken in a remote region of British Columbia that is at the centre of a classic exploitation vs. conservation controversy. Check out Paul’s portfolio of the Sacred Headwaters. His website describes the situation the best:
In northern British Columbia, three of the province’s greatest salmon-bearing rivers are formed in a region known as the Sacred Headwaters. The land has one of the largest predator-prey ecosystems in North America, earning it the nickname, “Serengeti of the North,” and is the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation.
The Headwaters is at the centre of a dispute between the Tahltan, resource industries, government and environmental groups. Competing interests concerning land use, mining and hunting have created divides and put the future health of the Sacred Headwaters at risk.
Last week we travelled to San Diego to attend the first ever gala for the Children and Nature Network. The event took place on a paddlewheeler boat in Mission Bay. It was attended by C&NN’s board of directors, Richard Louv and a lot of other generous individuals who helped to raise a whole lot of money for the organization. Check out this blog to read more about it. The highlight for me was definitely meeting and introducing Canada’s favourite wildlife artist and conservationist, Mr. Robert Bateman. I’m not sure who was more excited to meet him, me or my Mom! The really fun part came when the live auction started and people were bidding on things like a safari in Africa and a trip to the Galapagos Islands. One of the items available during the silent auction was this limited edition print by Mr. Bateman. He was kind enough to explain to me that the fox had been chasing a squirrel up a sugar maple in Ontario one winter and the photo was captured by a friend. He told me that most days he paints until ten o’clock at night and often gets part way through a painting, starts a new one and then later returns to his unfinished pieces. He is so lucky to live on a place like Saltspring Island where he can enjoy the scenery and the outdoors every day.
There was a lot of talk in San Diego that night about people’s disconnections from nature. Someone said during the gala that adults shouldn’t be asking “what kind of world will we be leaving our kids but rather what kind of kids will we be leaving this world”. It’s a great question don’t you think? Everyone who was there was inspired by the discussions and the talks and the Children and Nature Network will continue to do an amazing job of helping kids get in touch and stay in touch with the great outdoors thanks to the efforts of so many.
Back in June I was invited to attend a special evening in Victoria at a dinner with the members of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. They were wrapping up their annual general meeting and celebrating and recognizing a number of individuals for their work on different environmental subjects. The Canadian Wildlife Federation does a great job of protecting Canadian wildlife with their conservation and education programs. They also have a number of publications including WILD magazine for kids. As a kid I had a subscription to this magazine and loved getting it in the mail. I loved reading about animals I knew about and reading about all the animals that I would never see in my neighbourhood. It was such an education and is still a favourite to check out when I visit the local library. Now CWF is making it available on newstands and you’ll never guess who’s on the cover…
In July my brother and I were able to participate in the clipping of adipose fins on coho salmon at the Mossom Creek Hatchery. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors under the shade of the canopy supplied by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and count all the salmon we clipped. Even though I’ve watched this being done before it was the first time we actually got to do the clipping ourselves. We were in the company of other volunteers but I have to say there’s not a lot of talking going on because everyone is so focused on counting the salmon they clip! Clipping the adipose fin is a common practice for marking hatchery born fish. The other volunteers and I clipped 4,000 young coho in about three hours. The volunteers who took part ranged in age from 5 years old to over 70 plus. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Recently I received letters from a class in Haiti. Their teacher had shown them some of my work on nature deficit disorder and she asked them to comment on the idea that “people who haven’t experienced nature have been robbed of a gift, kids have been robbed of part of their childhood.” Their observations were so moving, they have to be shared. These are kids from wealthy families who mostly have to stay in their own gated yards or indoors for fear of being taken.
They were mostly students from wealthy families who were vulnerable to being kidnapped. Their reality was that they have to stay indoors or behind walls to avoid being taken. Here is a small sample of some of the kinds of comments that illustrate their hope for the future.
One child said “if everyone forgets about nature, it will fall apart and we don’t want that”. Still another said I believe nature can change the world”. And one of my very favourite statements was from a boy named Jeremiah who wrote “technology is eating right through children’s minds!” One child even wrote that he envied the poor in his neighbourhood because “they get the chance to walk around to go in the woods and play with their friends outside”. Now if that’s not enough motivation for getting outdoors, I don’t know what is!
I have to tell you it took me quite a while to draft a reply to these kids. Despite the limitations imposed on them these kids had amazing insights into how the world works and insights into themselves. But more importantly they had a willingness and a hope to change their disconnections from nature. Their letters were a real education for me and served as a reminder of how all our circumstances differ and that we each have to find our own path to nature and the great outdoors.
Last spring I met four amazing guys. They set out last January to paddle, unassisted, across the Atlantic Ocean in their human powered boat. Why in the world would anyone try to make that journey never mind do it with only the power of two people, in four hour shifts to man the oars you ask? Well, their task was to study the ocean and share what they learned for audiences around the world. The Oar Northwest Expedition was sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and solar and wind powered instruments helped the crew in their tasks. Although they capsized before they completed their journey, they survived their ordeal in the water and they were able to recover the valuable data they had accumulated during their trip. Now they get to share their story with others in classrooms and at gatherings like the one I attended in Victoria that was put on by the CWF. Special thanks to Adam Kreek, Jordan Hanssen, Markus Pukonen and Pat Fleming for making a difference. Markus is a videographer himself and you can see his film trailer at oarnorthwest.com.